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Zero Gravity

by Sharon English

Zero Gravity is Sharon English’s second book of short stories. Unlike those of English’s 2002 debut, Uncomfortably Numb, these stories are not interconnected via a narrator, though there is a pervasive theme to the collection as a whole. Most of these characters are suspended – on their way somewhere, lost, or waiting somewhere they’re not sure they want to be. These characters are not so much floating, as the book’s title might suggest, but rather looming between one state – of consciousness, of place, of identity – and another.

Vancouver, or at least the Vancouver that English presents us with, is a fitting location for the stories, with its new buildings and persistent drizzle, its coffee shops and cyclists. Everything there is new and healthy, and yet cool and aloof. In one story, an executive at TrendCorp (we can only imagine what he does there) is gradually, and literally, disappearing. In another, a woman leaves her tedious desk job in Toronto only to pick up where she left off in Vancouver. In another, an aspiring screenwriter/drug dealer loses his girlfriend’s daughter by the beach.

What is remarkable about most of these stories is that, though they at first seem disaffected, detached, and apathetically “cool,” they are, at their best, ultimately hopeful. People change, they find friends, they face humiliation, and they move on. It isn’t particularly hip to admit that you need a friend, or that you’re not doing what you want with your life, but these characters do it anyway, and when they do, it’s refreshing.